The Ministry of Health and Wellness has received confirmation from the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) of the allocation of 74, 400 doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. This will be received through the COVAX Facility. The COVAX Facility facilitates the distribution of the vaccine in a manner that is fair cross all countries, irrespective of size or developmental status.
The AstraZeneca vaccine offers many advantages for its introduction into Saint Lucia’s immunization programme. One of the greatest advantages of the AstraZeneca vaccine is it does not require ultra-cold storage. Rather, it can be stored within the current storage facility used for vaccine storage in our national health care system. In addition, the roll out of the vaccination programme can be conducted in a similar manner to how vaccines are presently administered to our population. That is, the vaccine can be given within health care institutions as well as within non-health sites and communities.
The projected timeline for receiving this batch of vaccines is the end of February 2021. It is estimated that this initial allocation shall allow for the vaccination of 20% of our population. This will start the process of building immunity against the COVID-19 virus and by extension strengthen public health efforts to manage COVID-19. The Saint Lucia Cabinet of Ministers has agreed for this vaccine to be made available at no cost to citizens and it shall be provided on a voluntary basis.
The national COVID-19 vaccine programme shall be rolled out through a phased approach with the first phase focusing on people at greatest risk of COVID-19. This shall assist in protecting those with the greatest vulnerability and likely to have more adverse outcomes if infected by the virus. Officials of the Ministry of Health shall be providing further updates and guidance to the public as we prepare for the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccine.